Select Committee to consider telecoms pensioners’ petition

The National Assembly has decided to have a select committee consider a petition which calls for the employees of the Guyana Telecommunications Company (GTC) who stayed on after the company was privitised and became GT&T then retired, to be paid their retirement benefits

The petition, brought by Alliance for Change (AFC) MP Trevor Williams, found favour on both sides of the house and so the decision to have it considered by a select committee was made unanimously when the question was raised by Deputy Speaker Basil Williams.

The petition, in part, states: “Whereas by way of correspondence dated February 10, 2000, from Mr Winston Brassington, Executive Secretary and Head of the Privitisation Unit, to Ms Carol Herbert, former Secretary to the Treasury, on the payment of pension benefits to former employees of GTC he stated that it was the Privitisation Unit’s view that those employees who would have fallen in this bracket and would have attained the age of 55 and were still employed by GT&T should have been paid their retirement benefits because it was monies already earned by them and in fact they should have been paid since 1991 when the company was privitised as is the practice.”

The petition, which bore 11 signatures, stated that the expectation that the retired workers should have been paid after continuing with the Guyana Telephone Telegraph Company (GT&T) after privitisation is consistent with the provisions of Guyana’s Pensions Act. To further qualify the request for the payment of the former workers’ pensions and other benefits, the petition made reference to correspondence which, in 2000, was sent from Brassington to then Secretary of the Finance Ministry’s Trea-sury in which he said that “employees will continue in employment with GT&T and their services will be treated as continuous and unbroken and other conditions of service will not be less favourable than which they enjoyed…”

The petition also recommends that several employees who accepted termination offers at the time of the transition be paid their pensions or gratuities.

Finally, the petition asked the Finance Minister to explain why the relevant agency has not yet made the payments. It also asked him to say when the payment would finally be made.

A report released by the Government Information Agency (GINA) noted that the People’s National Congress (PNC) was in power at the time government struck the deal with Atlantic Tele Network which saw the privitisation of the telecommunication company.

However, 24 years have since gone by, most under the PPP/C, since then and nothing has been done to rectify the situation. During a demonstration in front of the Office of the President last December, a former employee of the telephone company told reporters that he and his colleagues “have before tried to engage former president [Bharrat] Jagdeo, [President] Ramotar, [Head of NICIL] Mr Brassington but we were unsuccessful time and time again.” On December 5 last year, scores of retired telecoms workers demonstrated in front of the Office of the President in a bid to get the correct pensions and benefits owed to them for since 1990.

According to some of the workers, the issue lies with the pension to be received from GTC, and not that which they received from GT&T.

“We are being disregarded regardless of our years of service, our position and our salaries because we are receiving the minimum pension of $18,833 as everyone else,” one protester had said. With regard to the payment of the former workers’ gratuities, NICIL approved some payments last March. These were made at in accordance with calculations as at December 1990. Still, while some payments were made, others were not.

Another protester had said “we were promised that when we retire we would get our full pension from the government. It’s over 20 odd years and we haven’t received anything. We are writing them, sending messages… Our salaries were always higher than the regular worker, so we deserve more but we are receiving the meagre pension…the ex-president getting $3 million and we getting $18,000 a month. Do you see the disparity? The government is not doing anything—in fact we are being treated ridiculously.”

“We didn’t want to look like we are opposing the government but right now over two dozen pensioners have already died waiting for this to be resolved,” another protester stated, adding that three quarters of the pensioners present at the protest were ill.

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